Sunday, December 28, 2008

Now This Is A Sound Card! Ancient History Revisited

Introducing the Reveal Sound FX Wave 32 Sound Card aka SC600 + Wave32!
This sound card is 12 1/4" long and was released around November 1995.
Another component from the ancient ISA slot era, this sound card had plenty of 'new' features.

Built around the Ensoniq chip it was based on AMD's InterWave wavetable audio processor. During this time period FM synthesis was considered inadequate for the demands of emerging multimedia and Windows 95-based applications.

Initial reports quoted the selling price at $149 USD. The actual price was $200 USD. Back in 1995 that was a big chunk of change! And even though it was billed as a Wave 32 it still used the 16 bit bus.

In the picture below you can see that the contacts were 5 1/4" long
with the remaining 7" hanging out the back. Notice that not many contacts are used.

Here's something you no longer see. 3 individual CD Interfaces that were 'keyed' to certain manufacturers. Each interface was routed to the proprietary interface driver. From top down they are as follows;

Yep! Back in the day you had many manufacturers making hardware that was not compatible with other interfaces and there were very few standards.
Therefore you had to make sure the new hardware you were buying had the features needed to run your other hardware.

Something else that you may not notice on the card are numerous jumpers.
You had jumpers to set the midi and wave addresses and what type of microphone you used. Set an address wrong and you will either crash or have no audio.

These were the days when info and help was sparse and required some knowledge of addressing and IRQ's.
Ah! The good old days! LOL!!!

For a look at the I/O spec sheet click the link below;
Spec Sheet

The card performed okay and had sound quality that ranged from high quality to mediocre depending on what type of file you were playing. FM synthesis may have been considered semi-obsolete but the users and game manufacturers were still using it. This card didn't handle FM very well and the midi instrument sounds weren't that great either.

By today's standards this card would be in the $10 econoline of sound cards.
But back in 1995 this card generated plenty of news and excitement. It never did surpass the granddaddy of them all, the Creative AWE32 which was a full 14" long and was a must have audio card that was released 20 months earlier.
And a year after the release of the Reveal card the AWE64 sound card was released which saw many other sound cards end up in the trash.

I hope you enjoyed this time travel trip back to an exciting era in computer history.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

You Think Your Video Card Is Big? Check This Out!

Recently I was cleaning out my stock of old computer parts and came across an old ISA slot video card. Remembering many forum posts of users complaining about how long some of the new pci-e slot video cards, I decided to post some pics and spec's of this card.
Many younger readers have never seen this technology and this is a good way of preserving some computer history.

This video card is either a Cardex, Cirrus Logic or Gainward. All older search facilities are no longer available that would allow me to positively identify it. It measures 9 1/2" long and sports a whopping 2 megs of Ram and uses the ancient ISA slot structure.
The 8 IC's across the top of the board are the Ram modules. Each one is 256k in size for a total of 2 megs.

Notice how this card used the split slot configuration?
Many motherboards had ISA slots that contained 4 connectors to handle numerous hardware configurations.
This card uses the 1st, 3rd and 4th connectors.
Yep! It was a very confusing time.

Here is a view of the Cardex Bios chip. Notice the large size of the slot contacts?

Here's a close up of the Cirrus Logic processor.
Not made in China but in Korea!

Here is another close up of the analog video connector that is for featured add-ons. However, those features never seemed to materialize.

Other items that may not be visible in the pictures are several jumpers.
Back in the day you had to set jumpers to resolve IRQ conflicts, timing issues and a whole host of parameters that are now handled by modern hardware and operating systems.

This video card was state of the art in it's day and had a maximum display resolution of 800 x 600. Before that we were confined to a resolution of 640 x 480. A far cry from today's resolutions and large screen monitors.

So to those user's of the newer pci-e video cards that say their card is huge?
Try cramming one of these into your tiny system. LOL!!
The old cases of the day are another subject all together.

Hope you enjoyed this piece of ancient history.


A Whois Tutorial Using Network Tools. Amazing!

The Whois tool is part of the Network tools found in Ubuntu and is readily available for all other operating systems.
It is also the feature tool of the following mini tutorial. I enjoy networking and network security. It's a hobby of mine. :-)

Many people don't realize how much info can be gleaned by using Whois. I hope to open the door and provide some education on the use of these tools.
The Network Tools feature is found in the System-Administration section of the Ubuntu menu.
Let's open it up and click on the Whois tab.

For this tutorial I will be using a page I found during a Google search of Windows anti-virus reviews.
I have numerous Windows customers and like to keep on top of the ever changing technology.

One of the first pages that came up in my search was a site titled 2009 Security Software Reviews.
The page had reviews for numerous anti-virus software. Many of the reviewed anti-virus software were easily recognizable but a few weren't.
And a few of the more notables were missing but I was after any info I could find and started reading the reviews.
Now the fun begins!

When using Whois you don't use the http or the www portion of the address. All you need is the website's name and the domain extension like .com, .net, .org, etc.
So let's put the following address in Whois and click the Whois button;

A few seconds later Whois provides the following info;

Star Advertising
P.O. Box 8044
Delray Beach, Florida 33484
United States

Registered through:, Inc.
Created on: 25-Feb-08
Expires on: 25-Feb-10
Last Updated on: 03-Mar-08

Administrative Contact:
Frischman, Arthur
Star Advertising, Inc.
150 West 25th Street
Suite 904
New York, New York 10001
United States
(561) 251-7198 Fax --

Technical Contact:
Frischman, Arthur
Star Advertising, Inc.
150 West 25th Street
Suite 904
New York, New York 10001
United States
(561) 251-7198 Fax --

Domain servers in listed order:

Hmmmm....... We see that the contact info is Arthur Frischman at
You want to make a note of that for later.
We also see that this review site is owned by Star Advertising.

Let's copy the above info and paste it into a text document for future reference.
Now let's take a look at the website of the #1 rated security software.
It can be found and purchased here;

Clear out the Domain Address search window of Whois and insert the following address in Whois and click the button;

A Whois search provides us with this info;

601 N Congress Avenue
Suite 303
Delray Beach, Florida 33445
United States

Registered through:, Inc.
Created on: 04-Dec-03
Expires on: 04-Dec-11
Last Updated on: 28-Aug-06

Administrative Contact:
Frischman, Arthur
601 N Congress Avenue
Suite 303
Delray Beach, Florida 33445
United States
5612433247 Fax -- 5612433249

Technical Contact:
Frischman, Arthur
601 N Congress Avenue
Suite 303
Delray Beach, Florida 33445
United States
5612433247 Fax -- 5612433249

Domain servers in listed order:

Again we see that the contact info is Arthur Frischman at
We also see that the street addresses are different but the city and state are the same.
They use different email address domains but both use arthur@.
They both use the same domain servers.
Isn't that interesting?!!!!

Now let's dig a bit deeper and use the resources found at;

Doing a search of gave me this page;

I'll let you the reader make a decision and draw your own conclusions from the above info.
As you can see, using the Whois tool can provide some good info which allows you to investigate
website and domain info.
Never take claims on the internet at face value. Do a little research before making a decision.
It only takes you a few minutes and can provide you with good hard facts.

The foregoing shows how and why the use of domain proxies has become more prevalent.
A proxy allows the registrant of a domain name to hide all contact and address info from a search.
The implications and consequences of such secrecy should be obvious to the reader.
However, in an upcoming article I will show you more ways of finding who owns a domain name.
I will also continue my mini-series tutorials of the Domain Tools included with Ubuntu.

Be safe!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Extend The Holidays By Helping Needy Children

I hope that after the holidays I will acquire plenty of used computers put out for trash that were replaced with new Christmas computers.

I will wipe the drives, install Linux and get them into the hands of the poor children in my community.

Christmas may be a bit late for them but at least it did arrive.
And I am asking the Linux community to join in and help those
in need in your local community.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Linux Is Saving Me Money $$$

I decided to see how much money I have saved by switching to Linux.
I took several of the software titles I had previously used (Except for Photoshop) and used Google to search prices. I believe that most of the prices fall within the average price range for each product.

So let's start off with the Windows PC. I prefer XP but seeing how it's going to be phased out
I would need to upgrade to Vista. The other software other then PS is pretty much standard fare for my needs.

Vista Home Premium.........239.95
Antivirus ...........................39.95
Office 2007 Std. ...............119.99
Photoshop CS3..................649.00
CloneDVD and AnyDVD ...... 76.95
Nero 9 ...............................79.99
ConvertXtoDVD ................. 49.99
UltraISO ............................29.95
Total ............................. 1285.77

So we have a price tag of $1285.77 USD with the addition of Photoshop.
Without the Photoshop option the cost would still be $636.77 USD

Now to the Linux system using The Gimp, Xara and Blender as a replacement for Photoshop.
As you can see, it cost me absolutely nothing for the O.S. and the software.
I saved myself a minimum of $636.77 USD.
And I didn't even have to buy upgrades to run it unlike Vista.

Linux ........................... Free
Antivirus ....................... N/A
OpenOffice ....................Free
The Gimp,Xara,Blender ..Free
K9 Copy ........................Free
K3b ..............................Free
DeVeDe, WinFF .............Free
ISO Master ................... Free
Total ............................$0.00

Many of you will object to me adding the cost of Vista to the list as it is installed in store bought computers. Well I only use systems I build myself. Therefore I need to buy Vista and that is what I must pay.

And I added Photoshop more as a joke rather then a necessary application. I honestly used Paint Shop Pro 7 that I bought on a discount rack for $49 USD.

But anytime a Linux user mentions The Gimp many others scream that it doesn't have all the features as Photoshop.
Well most people will never use all the features of Photoshop and I'd like those nay sayers to cough up their license key and not the crack key that is so prevalent. No user that only does home photos and simple graphics will ever convince me they purchased a $649.00 piece of software to do so little graphics work.

Anyway............ Thank you Linux for saving me money and providing me with everything I require.
In these troubling economic times, every dime I can save is much appreciated.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Benchmark Your PC - How Do You Stack Up?

Benchmarking and testing a PC falls into 2 categories;
Within a running PC or via a bootable disk.
The Inquisitor Hardware Testing and Certification System falls in both categories.

You can download the scripts to your PC and run them within your booted system or you can download the Live Cd and run the tests from a stable environment. I say 'stable' because you won't have a lot of background processes running in the Live environment then you would in a fully booted PC.

Another problem with running these tests inside a booted up PC is that the OS won't allow certain tests or portions of the test to access all of the hardware.
That's where the Live Cd comes in handy.

The Live Cd contains 25 various hardware testing modules. Each test has user configured parameters to allow for custom hardware testing.
Be advised!!!
The tests consist of destructive and non-destructive tests. The destructive hard drive tests will wipe your hard drive of all data. The other destructive tests have the potential of destroying your hardware.

It is recommended that the casual user selects the non-destructive tests and sets the time and cycle parameters to a low amount the first time they use this software.
That should not put any user off as these tests can be a very good tool for checking out a new computer or finding a premature hardware failure in an older system.

The Live Cd also has the benefit of not being tied to a certain O.S. or version.
It will boot up on almost any system that has sufficient Ram.
The installable test scripts are only available for Linux systems which makes the Live Cd the preferred usage.

Inquisitor also has an Enterprise version that allows the tests to be deployed over a network to 100's or 1000's of PC's in need of testing. This is geared towards the PC or hardware manufacturer who needs a quick and standardized method of testing their equipment before shipping.

So go and grab the scripts or Live Cd and see where your PC stands.
Test your friend's computer and see if it's as good as yours! LOL!!
Get the details and the files from their website found here;

Inquisitor Hardware Testing Website

Good luck and may your numbers be in specs.


Recover Lost Windows Login Password With Live Cd's

So you have a Windows PC and you forgot the login password.
What do you do? How do you retrieve or reset it?
There are several solutions including making your own bootable Cd's with the needed tools but I'm going to focus on 2 solutions that only require downloading and burning to a Cd.

Those being PCLoginNow and Trinity Rescue Kit.

I find it quite humorous how Microsoft has made claims that their newest OS is so secure. There are no more backdoor Admin logins and the implementation of SYSKEY which is
an optional feature added in Windows NT 4.0 SP3.
It was meant to protect against offline password cracking attacks so that the SAM database would still be secure.

Unfortunately, Microsoft underestimated the power of Linux.
Both of the following software are based on Linux and can achieve the same results. That is getting your password back or reseting it to a new one.

PCLoginNow is a small (55 Meg) ISO file that you download and then burn to a Cd. Based on Linux it is very easy to use and works on 2000, 2003, 2008, XP and Vista. It also has good driver support for most IDE and Sata drivers so you have the best chance of getting access to your hard drive.

And it can access both the Admin and User passwords.
You can also change or lock accounts, change policies or totally remove them.
The best part of all this is that this software is free.
You can read more about it and download it from their website.
PCLoginNow Website

The other software is the Trinity Rescue Kit.
A 130 meg ISO image that you burn to a Cd, this software is more then a password reset software although that is just one of it's many tools.
Again, this is a Linux based Live Cd with a twist.
It uses command line entries similar to the old Dos command days.
This is due in part to a bootable Dos utility disk he had once built.
It also keeps the size of the Cd down to a minimum by not having an integrated desktop manager like Gnome or KDE.

This software reads like a who's who of software and utilities.
It can rescue and repair a crashed PC. Both Windows and Linux.
It can clone a system across a network and more.
Be sure to read the documentation before you use it or even print it out although the newest version of TRK has the documentation built in.

You can read about and get TRK from their website;
Trinity Rescue Kit Website

As I said earlier, there are several other password reset/recovery tools available but the above 2 are easily available and bootable without requiring the user to create their own bootable Cd.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kernel Update Breaks VirtualBox

This morning I get a call from a customer that runs Ubuntu and XP in VirtualBox.
They said that when the tried starting VirtualBox they received an error message about the wrong driver version. They also mentioned that they recently had a kernel update.

Drat! It's pouring rain and they are almost an hour away with traffic. I really don't want to make the trip. So I get all the info from them about the error message and tell them I'll call them back in 5 minutes.

I do a quick search and find the problem and the solution.
Luckily it is a simple terminal command and takes a few minutes to run it.
I call them back, walk them through the fix and in less then 5 minutes they are back up and very happy.

Seems there is a bug in VirtualBox that causes it to not recompile the driver for the new kernel. So when you get a new kernel update, VirtualBox breaks because the driver has been compiled for the older kernel version.
Sun really needs to fix this bug and it may have been fixed by now. I believe my customer has the VirtualBox updates turned off which means they are using an older version.

So if you are usinfg VirtualBox and get a driver error after you had a kernel update here is how you fix it.

Open the terminal.
Now copy and paste or type in the following code;

sudo /etc/init.d/vboxdrv setup

The setup will begin to recomplie the drivers to match the kernel version.
It takes a few minutes and when it's down you will see your command pompt reappear.

That's it. A simple fix that takes a few minutes.
Hope it saves someone a hassle like it saved me.


Check Your Hard Drive Smart Status Using A GUI

Checking your hard drives Smart status is preventive damage control.
It lets you see if your hard drive is slowly failing or is healthy.
But in Linux the standard smartmon tools can be a bit of a hassle to set up and interpret the results.

I have my smartmon tools set to do a Smart scan once a day and send the results to a log file.
That means remembering to open the log file and read it. Something I neglect to do on a regular basis. Also setting up the smartmon tools in the command line may be a bit over the top for the new user. Many new users are terrified of the terminal and don't want to be bothered wading through log files.
I needed something that allowed me to check the Smart status on demand and provide the results in 'Real' time with a Graphical User Interface (GUI).

GSmartControl (GSC) fills all those needs plus adds a few other features.
Each time you open GSC it does a check of the hard drives installed in your system.
You can view the capabilities of each hard drive, attributes, error log and self test log.
It also has 2 test modes that allow you to run a diagnostic test on the hard drive to make sure it is good.

GSC can be downloaded from it's home page found here;
GSmartControl Website

They have packages for all the popular Linux distros and an exe installer for Windows users although they will need to install GTK+ first.

As Linux matures we will find more software that provides the user with a GUI.
Some purists may not be happy with the proliferation of GUI's and tend to snub them as the GUI is not true Linux but the mainstream user wants or even demands a GUI.

Now go and grab this nice utility and know that you can now easily check your hard drive for possible problems.


The Website Is Down - A Humorous Look At......

OMG!! The Website Is Down!!!
Well, not really but the website at
provides a humorous look into the life of a lowly tech support guy and his innovative techniques used in damage control.

It's a fairly large video but worth every byte of bandwidth.
The voices remind me of the characters from South Park and add to the video.
Afterwards you can browse the extras like playing on the Sales Guy's computer.

So kick back, lighten up and enjoy the show!

Don't reboot the server!

Winfixer, XP Antivirus 2008 And Affiliates Are Busted!

After years of reigning terror on users and doing damage to their computers, the purveyors of scumware/scamware have been nailed and have had their assets frozen by a U.S. Federal Court.

The companies operated out of the Kiev, Ukraine and Cincinnati, Ohio.
These scammers bilked millions of dollars out of unsuspecting and/or unknowing users over the years.
They also damaged many users computers by illegally installing their scumware into users computers via 'infected' or altered website ads.

You can read more here and download the Justice Department complaint in PDF form;

Washington Post Story

Hopefully they will be shut down completely but it is highly doubtful.
For every scammer shut down, there are 5 more waiting to take it's place.

Stay Safe!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Linux, Windows or Mac Which Should I Use?

I see people's eyes rolling already. LOL!!
Nope! This isn't going to be a Linux, Windows, Mac is the best post.
Quite the opposite. I'm going to explore a bit of human nature.
Uh-Oh! LOL!!

People that personally know me will tell you I have turned into a very vocal proponent of Linux. This coming after many years of my using Windows.
I have also been exposed to Mac's many years ago because of their (At that time) awesome music editing capabilities. 32 track editing was unheard of on anything other then a Mac.

So as I go on my mini crusade I come in contact with many computer users and several OS's.
I always manage to get a comment in about Linux. Some people are interested and some aren't. Others become vocal that the OS they are using is the best. At an earlier time I would have launched a major attack defending Linux and why it is better. But age and maturity now come into play and I now look at all the parts of the equation.

The OS a person is using may be the best for them in terms of available software and comfort level. I'll be getting back to the comfort level but for now let's look at the software point of view.

If a person is a gamer then there is no denying that Windows is the OS of choice. It has the most titles available for it and has software specifically written for it. So talking about change for these users is pointless.
Also, many software titles are written for Windows only and the user may not have a choice.

Mac users are in a class of their own. Many Mac users that I have known have either used Mac's for audio editing, publishing or graphics. Many of your graphics designers and schools teaching graphic arts only use Mac's because they render color graphics with a quality unmatched by normal PC's.

And then we have the Linux users. Some people describe these users as geeky.
I prefer the term 'curious'. We tend to try stuff that most wouldn't. And we like the sense of security we have because of the way Linux is designed.
We enjoy the multiple flavors of Linux that are available to us. We like having choices.
But all isn't perfect. We have plenty but we still lack in some areas as do all the other major OS's. Nothing is 100%.

As I mentioned earlier there is also the 'comfort' level. Many people have been using Windows for as long as they have been using a computer. It is all they know. They use the same applications and software day in and day out. The click here, type there and that is how it works.
They feel comfortable and at ease with what they are using. Even the mention of using a new piece of software let alone a whole new OS will send waves of fear through them.

Many readers will know what I am saying. Just take a look at Office 2007 and how it's redesigned interface and options sent screams down the hallways that could be heard through the locked doors of the IT department.
"It's not like I had previously used!!"
"I can't use this! I want the old one back!"

We have infringed on the user's comfort zone. We have shook their world and now they are scared.
And this is the same reaction I see from many users when I mention Linux.
Some have never heard of it while others say they have heard it is very hard to use.

That last comment is probably a carry over from the early days of Unix. Many people use Unix and Linux like they are the same, but they aren't. The days when there were no GUI's, Desktops or routines that scanned your hardware and installed the proper drivers. Those were the 'Dark Ages' of Linux. Today it is a very polished alternative for many users but not all users!

For the graphic artists, gamers or users that have no alternatives to their proprietary software, Linux is not a viable alternative as a replacement OS.
But for the web browsing, power email forwarding user, Linux is an excellent and secure alternative.
For the person who is curious, not satisfied with few choices, doesn't want to spend a bundle on software or wasted time on scans and updating then Linux is something you may want to look into.

If your happy and in your comfort zone then stick with what you are using.
I'm not even going to suggest a Mac user to fully convert. They know where the stand and already have an adventurous spirit.

If you don't mind trying alternative software, feel adventurous and want to learn a little then give Linux a try. You may smile again.

But no matter what OS you are using it doesn't matter here. Everyone is welcome and if you feel like it, you can expand your comfort zone a bit.


Model Train Layout Cad Software

Linux and Open Source software is full of hidden surprises.
And I have just been surprised with this Cad software that allows you to design model railroad layouts. Like any Cad software that is worthwhile, xtrkcad supports layers and too many features to list here.

And you not only can edit your train layout but it also allows you to create an inventory of your engines and cars. Another feature is the layout estimator.
You can enter the prices of all the track and switches you plan on using and the software will generate a cost list for you.

I originally installed this package from the Repository and have ran into some error message issues. I plan on removing it and install it from the source code I downloaded from their website. As it is now, I can create and view my layouts or the included demo layouts but cannot run any trains on the tracks.

Did I mention that this software is also available for Windows and Mac's?
Well it is!
You can find all the info on thie xtrkcad Cad program below;
xtrkcad web page

They also mention that their layouts can now be imported into JMRI which is another railroad construction program based on Java.
If you are interested in JMRI you can follow the link below;
JMRI web page

xtrkcad is another jewel in the Open Source crown.
Every time I come across good quality Open Source software like this one, I feel like a little kid in a candy store.
My eyes get big and I shake with excitement.

Enjoy and a huge thanks to the Open Source community who's only payment from these projects is our gratitude.


Let It Snow And See Santa Fly On Your Desktop With Xsnow

Let it snow and have Santa fly the skies on your desktop.
This is a continuation of my "Games and Time Wasters" series.
Today I'm going to talk about a small application that will delight the children and the children at heart.
It's called xsnow and can be found in the Synaptic P
ackage Manager.

Open Synaptic and do a search for xsnow and mark it for installation.
Now open your terminal and type in xsnow.
You now have snow falling on your desktop and Santa flying across your screen.
To end it just close your term

Some n
otes and thoughts about this app. Feel free to add your thoughts in my comments section.
Xsnow is only viewable on the desktop. Any open window or web browser will cover it.
If you type xsnow --help in the terminal you will see additional parameters that you can append to the xsnow command.

The falling snow will obliterate your desktop icons like a Jedi Warriors light sabre. LOL!!
But don't worry. Shutting down the terminal will kill xsnow and restore your icons. If the icons disappear just select the clean up by name command from the right click or check and uncheck auto arrange.

I added a menu item for xsnow. I choose which category to have it in, selected New Item and choose Application in Terminal then added xsnow to the command field.
That way xsnow will be launched from the terminal window and is easy to quit just by shutting the terminal window.

Here's my xsnow desktop!

I think this holiday season I will be using this as my 'screensaver'!



Enable VirtualBox USB Support In Ubuntu 8.10 Ibex

I just got around to installing VirtualBox in my newly installed Ibex system.
Finished the install and noticed a warning message that there were no USB ports present or supported.

I know from past experience that to have USB access in VirtualBox that you need the PUEL version from their website and not the OSE version from the repositories.

So I do some searching and found some info that fixed the USB problem and is a very easy fix. It should work for all Ibex users and hopefully this problem will be fixed in future versions.

First make sure you have added your user to the list of VirtualBox users group. To do this just copy and paste the following into your terminal;

$ sudo gpasswd -a YOURUSERNAME vboxusers

Where YOURUSERNAME is your user name.

Now let's add some USB support to VirtualBox. Open the fstab file so you can edit it. Since it needs root permissions we can do it through the terminal with this command;

sudo gedit /etc/fstab

Now that the fstab file is open add the following command to the bottom of the fstab file;

none /proc/bus/usb usbfs devgid=46,devmode=664 0 0

Close the file making sure to save it.
Now reboot your computer and when you open VirtualBox you will have USB support.

Simple enough?